Pay gap due to lack of female applications

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New academic research has suggested that women continue to be underrepresented in high-paying jobs because they simply aren’t applying for them.

Contrary to previous studies and popular sentiment, which has tended to suggest more sinister reasons are at play, the research from McGill University indicated that women themselves could be at the root of the discrepancy. Women are taking themselves out of the running for certain jobs based on their own assumptions that their application will be unsuccessful, the lead researcher said.

“Combined with a preference for jobs with better work-life balances and a lack of identity with more stereotypically masculine jobs, such as you may find in the finance industry, in a sense [women] pre-empt what they think the employer’s decision will be, and opt-out first,” Professor Roxana Barbulescu from McGill University said.

Barbulescu’s research, which was done in collaboration with Professor Matthew Bidwell from the University of Pennsylvania, has offered what is understood to be the first direct evidence that similarly qualified men and women apply for roles based on their assumptions of traditional gender roles. The research aimed to investigate the assumption of gender-discrimination by understanding the process from the applicants’ side.

“We did not find evidence to suggest women are less likely to receive job offers in any of the sectors we looked at once they applied,” Barbulescu said. The problem instead is in understanding the issues that make women believe they will not be successful in these traditionally male-dominated fields.

In addition to this research, another recent paper has highlighted the influx of female talent entering the workforce over the next few years. The majority of university graduates are now women, and in three years’ time 70% of graduates will be female, a paper from consulting firm Regus noted.

The time has come for business to revaluate how they are making their workplace a supportive environment for women, author of Meeting the Future of Work, John Blackwell, said. “Women are increasingly going to challenge the male dominance of the workplace, and they will seek out organisations that support the female worker and enable them to fulfil their career aspirations,” Blackwell commented.

The simplest and most effective way to demonstrate support for female workers might begin with advertising flexible working options, and by sitting down with staff to determine how their work can best be facilitated. “Gender disparity is an issue that the world has been facing for a long time, but now, with more women set to be entering the job market, the question of how organisations can harness the potential of their female employees is more significant than ever,” Jacqueline Lehmann from Regus said.


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  • Paul on 27/08/2012 3:57:36 p.m.

    Generalising; but it seems to be the case that women will tend to undervalue or downplay their experiences and abilities, while men tend to do the opposite. That would support the notion that otherwise capable female candidates don't apply on a equivalent ability basis with men . . .

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